The national railway of Sarah Island : Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish

Hawkes, Lesley (2012) The national railway of Sarah Island : Richard Flanagan's Gould's Book of Fish. In King, Stuart, Chatterjee, Anuradha, & Loo, Stephen (Eds.) Fabulation : myth, nature, heritage : proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia &​ New Zealand, Society of Architectural Historians of Australia &​ New Zealand, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Tasmania.


In the latter half of the nineteenth century the railway became an emblem of technological advancement, stood for the improvement and progression of European life, and became a recognizable symbol for the achievements of governments and citizens. The implementation and use of the railway became closely linked with notions of national identity and character. The railway became an identifiable artefact in official history but at the same time it became a part of everyday life. Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish retells the life-story of a fictionalized convict sent to Sarah Island and who paints fish, eventually he metamorphoses into one. It could be thought that a novel set in convict times would have little to do with notions of national identity, technological advancement, and railway travel. However, Richard Flanagan, in this very complex, almost surreal, novel, has used the construction of a fictional national railway as one of the ways to explore Australia's complex relationship with history and space. The novel tells of the plans of a history-loving Commandant and his desire to build a national railway on Sarah Island. This paper explores how Sarah Island becomes a metonym for Australia as a whole and Flanagan's novel takes on a metaphysical dimension as he reveals the struggles that emerge when official history collides with non-official versions. The fabulations of the novel contribute to an historical reconstruction of the spatial/architectural history of the Tasmanian colonial project.

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ID Code: 66208
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Australian Literature, Railways, Flanagan, Gould, Myth
ISBN: 9781862956582
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) (200502)
Divisions: Past > Schools > Creative Writing & Literary Studies
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 16 Jan 2014 00:13
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2014 23:35

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